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Carroll school board creates new curriculum and instruction committee, but denies student’s request to join

Carroll County Public Schools will have a new curriculum and instruction committee added to its process of reviewing instruction and materials.

The board voted to approve the group that was recommended by staff at its July meeting, however, when the student board member pitched to also be part of the committee, only one board member agreed. Some nearby districts do allow for students to sit on its curriculum committees and councils, and others do not. Carroll’s student board member Devanshi Mistry said students should have a say every step of the way.

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Carroll County staff first introduced the idea to the board at its meeting in June. The plan was to have the committee meet monthly to review in advance instructional systemic initiatives like curriculum development, instructional resources and instructional methodologies prior to the monthly board of education meetings.

According to the meeting document, the committee’s purpose is to “provide ample time to inform the board of items being brought to the future meetings.” Committee members would include two board of education members, one being the chair; Jason Anderson, the chief academic, equity and accountability officer; Angela McCauslin, director of curriculum and instruction; Nicholas Shockney, director of special education, and “appropriate CCPS staff.”

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Anderson said at the June 9 meeting that it would provide more insight, oversight and transparency. He added Carroll’s curriculum is locally developed and the curriculum currently utilized was seen and voted on by the board. Superintendent Steve Lockard added it would “bring a whole other level of information to our board meetings,” which would allow them to be better prepared by the time of the vote.

Carroll’s curriculum council, which includes a student and one board member, would evaluate the instruction and materials and bring it to the council committee, which would include two other board members, for further discussion. Recommendations from the committee and council would later be presented to the board of education for a vote.

Board member Donna Sivigny volunteered to be on the committee. And so did Mistry, the student board member, who said she strongly believes student representation is needed since students would be impacted the most by the group’s decisions. She added later, “I feel that with my position I’m able to convey that information more effectively to the students themselves.”

Anderson said he’s pleased with all the excitement of everyone wanting to join.

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Liberty High School junior Devanshi Mistry is the Carroll County Board of Education's student board member.
Liberty High School junior Devanshi Mistry is the Carroll County Board of Education's student board member. (Courtesy Photo)

Mistry advocated to be on the committee again during the July 14 meeting. Board member Patricia Dorsey agreed and made a motion to have a student member. Her motion was not seconded.

“I strongly believe that the student voice is very critical to the discussion that would be happening at this meeting,” Mistry said, adding that the curriculum council has a student representative.

Dorsey agreed adding that the student representative’s input is valuable on the board of education and would be just as helpful on the curriculum and instruction committee.

Tara Battaglia, fellow board member, said she is not directly opposed to it, however, she noted there is a student representative on the council and said the committee conversations on materials “could get into a lot deeper than they could on the council.”

Carroll school officials stated Frederick County Public Schools was a system they knew of that also had a curriculum and instruction committee. An official from FCPS stated they do not have a student on its committee. Harford County Public Schools also does not have a student on its general curriculum committee.

Howard County Public Schools does not have a curriculum and instruction committee but they do have advisory committees for most of their content areas. It includes members of its curriculum staff, school staff, students and community members.

The student who sits on the Baltimore City Public Schools’ board of commissioners also sits on its teaching and learning committee. And Baltimore County Public Schools has a student on its curriculum council. They also have a staff-based curriculum group that includes teachers and central office staff.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools invite students to be part of evaluation of locally created curriculum. “Although scheduling and commitment to this lengthy process becomes somewhat of a challenge for students,” Bob Mosier, Anne Arundel’s chief communications officer, said in an email.

He added the evaluation of commercial curriculum has not included students but the process of reviewing materials of instruction does, including parents, teachers and administrators.

“I believe without a student voice on this committee, it’s not beneficial,” Mistry said. “If we say we want to bring the student voice into all aspects of our decision making ... then I don’t see why we can’t also include it on this committee as well.”

The plan was approved by the board members with Mistry opposing. However, Carroll’s student board members’ votes are not officially counted.

The plan is for the committee to start by September. It will be open to the public and public comment will be held at each meeting. There are no plans to televise the meetings.

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